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10 Resolutions for Globally Mobile Talent in 2013 

mercer global worker mobility

Mercer, a global consulting firm in talent, health, retirement and investments, says research shows many multinational companies have identified finding qualified candidates for global assignments as a big concern. Multinationals are also concerned about managing costs, especially since the total cost of moving a senior employee and his or her family abroad for a multi-year commitment – including compensation, benefits and housing – can easily cost three times base compensation.

However, attracting the best candidates and managing costs can be contradictory goals. Mercer suggests 10 tips to assist HR professionals when managing a globally mobile workforce:

  1. Aim before you fire – It is important to ensure that global mobility programs meet both talent needs and business needs. Now is the time to elicit feedback from line managers and senior leaders to ensure that mobility programs are doing the right things — and not just doing things right. Use focus groups, interviews and market research to get unbiased, current input on the program’s strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Knock the barnacles off processing expatriate assignments – Look critically at the entire process of selecting, recruiting, enrolling, orienting, compensating, housing, managing and repatriating expatriates. Consider some of the excellent software tools available, like AssignmentPro, to document and streamline administration processes rather than using spreadsheets that vary by country.
  3. Rationalize housing policies – Housing costs can constitute one of the largest portions of total mobility costs and local housing markets can be volatile. Use timely, accurate, neighborhood-specific housing cost data for “host” cities. Set appropriate, reasonable-cost rental guidelines and communicate them clearly to expatriates and relocation firms before the hunt for housing begins. Consider elevating the approval process so that more-senior managers must approve exceptions to stated policies.
  4. Match expatriate programs to talent management strategies – Define specific competencies for global leaders and then ensure their global mobility programs build “bench strength” to fill future leadership slots. As the company expands in other countries, it will become increasingly important that senior executives have hands-on experience outside their own home countries. For each assignment, consider whether it is growing the business, developing global leaders or filling a critical skill gap, but do not leave talent mobility to chance.
  5. Measure what needs to be managed – It may be a cliché, but “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Ask questions like: Can you give an ROI for your mobility programs? Would centralizing or decentralizing program management be more efficient and effective? What is the turnover rate of your mobile talent? Organizations must make sure they are pursuing goals that support the overall corporate strategy, and new analytics and metrics may be needed for 2013.
  6. Re-evaluate vendors – Are vendors fulfilling their service-level agreements? Would you hire the same vendors if you had to choose them today? From relocation management firms to tax preparers to cost-of-living data suppliers to compensation managers, organizations should look critically at their vendors’ recent performance. It may be time to outsource, in-source or “re-source” some of the many special services that expatriates require.
  7. Rethink how health care is supplied – In many countries, the cost of providing health care to expatriates and their families continues to accelerate at rates higher than local inflation. Now is a good time to review mobility health care and wellness options. This aspect of living abroad can vary dramatically from country to country, but health care and wellness is a significant element of overall expatriate remuneration that deserves careful attention.
  8. Consider “local plus” – Look critically at why expatriates are working abroad. Are they on temporary international secondments to be repatriated after their objectives are met? Or are some employees locally hired foreigners or directly hired on one-way or indefinite assignments for a permanent role? For the latter employees, a more localized or “local plus” compensation package may be more appropriate than a traditional expatriate package based on maintaining ties to a home country. Local plus adjustments may be particularly appropriate in Asia, where they have gained traction.
  9. Localize when it makes sense – Depending on the country, the expatriate’s role and purpose, and the availability of talent, it may make sense to hire locally rather than to send an expatriate from a home country. Or organizations may be able to “localize” existing expatriated employees by aligning their compensation and benefits package with local market levels. If expatriates have been in-country for five or more years, it may be time to consider localizing them.

10. Recalibrate indexes – Now is a good time to re-examine assumptions made when computing both cost-of-living allowances and hardship premiums based on differences between home and host locations. It may be appropriate to adjust cost-of-living differences in host countries based on assumptions about employees’ familiarity with host-location spending patterns that may already be addressed in other company allowances or in benefits in kind. Changing indices can be both cost-effective and realistic. Looking carefully at the rationale for supplying hardship premiums may allow them to be reduced over time.

Mercer is a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments. Mercer helps clients around the world advance the health, wealth and performance of their most vital asset – their people. Mercer’s 20,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. For more information, visit www.mercer.com. Follow Mercer on Twitter @MercerInsights.

Illustration by Anusorn P nachol at Free Digital Photos.net

Compiled from Mercer press release.

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